Tuesday, Jun 25th

Hochul's Housing Plan Shelved

LegislatureGovernor Kathy Hochul’s much feared housing compact has been abandoned. The plan, which was a part of the NYS budget, was a major thorn in the budget negotiations and fell apart due to opposition from many quarters.

In Scarsdale and other suburban locations along the Metro North and Long Island Railroad lines, the plan would have cleared the way for large scale development within a half mile of the train stations by allowing builders to override local zoning code. Protections for the environment, stormwater, parking, and density would have been ignored to facilitate multifamily housing on what is now zoned as single home lots.

But it turns out that suburban legislators were not the only ones objecting to the plan.

According to reports, advocates for tenants were vying for protection from eviction and the plan failed to address their pleas. They were seeking a provision called “good cause eviction,” protection which would require landlords to show good cause before evicting tenants as well as limitations on rent increases, similar to rent control. Another proposed program would have provided rental assistance vouchers for homeless New Yorkers and tenants at risk of eviction.

The building unions were also opposed to the plan as it did not include fair wage and labor standards into the housing expansion.

Legislators from more densely populated portions of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens also opposed the provision in the bill that would have lifted the floor area ratio (FAR) requirement that requires residential buildings to be up to 12 times the size of their lot in what’s known as the density cap. This would have allowed developers to vastly increase the size of their projects and further crowd already packed areas.

Here are some comments from local leaders on the news.

Susan Douglass, President of the Scarsdale Forum who wrote a detailed position paper on the possible effects of the legislation on Scarsdale said, “ Governor Hochul has "shelved" the Housing Compact for now, in a strategy to get the already delayed State budget passed. According to published information from news sources, State Assembly and Senate leaders have been unwilling in budget negotiations to support part of Governor Hochul’s plan that would allow the State to override local zoning laws for new housing developments.

However, Governor Hochul and state lawmakers could still negotiate a housing deal in the legislative session, outside of the budget process. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Scarsdale to closely follow the process and be prepared to study and weigh in on any new proposals. Moreover, it may be prudent for Scarsdale officials, civic organizations such as the Scarsdale Forum and others, along with concerned citizens, to study and perhaps propose options to create new housing in Scarsdale, a portion of which might be affordable. This would put us in a position of being proactive rather than reactive.

State Assemblymember Amy Paulin who represents Scarsdale in Albany and fought against the compact said, “Thankfully, the Governor’s housing compact proposal was struck. I respect the Governor’s commitment and agree with her goal to increase housing in New York State. It is something we need. That being said I felt her proposal was untenable for our area, and for many areas throughout the state which could not withstand the proposed density and pace of housing development.”

State Senator Shelley Mayer said, "It is clear to me for some time that Westchester needs - and must have - more affordable housing if it is to continue to be a diverse, thriving county that supports a path to the middle class. That being said, I made it abundantly clear to my colleagues and our Senate Leader that the Governor's proposed Housing Compact, with its 3% growth target, transit-oriented development requirements, and overriding of local zoning, was the wrong approach to the issues we face. I felt strongly it was a top-down, one size fits all approach that failed to incorporate the views of local elected officials and homeowners and failed to acknowledge that many suburban communities in Westchester have been and stand ready to find ways to provide affordable housing in their communities. I spoke out and am pleased that the Governor ultimately withdrew her plans. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues, Governor Hochul and our county and local leaders, to find constructive ways to increase the supply of affordable housing in Westchester."

And Melanie Spivak, who is on the Board of the Scarsdale’s Neighborhood Associations and rallied residents to write letters opposing the housing compact said, “Although there is a definite need for more housing, especially affordable housing, Governor Hochul’s proposal was an unrealistic solution. As always, one size solutions don’t fit all size communities. Increased housing density must be built in areas where the infrastructure can handle it, where municipalities can assure it can be built in the proper place, in a safe and environmentally proper location, without a time clock, and in a way that enhances the uniqueness of each community. Local control of our zoning laws and building requirements are imperative to protecting our unique village. I am grateful for the hard work and perseverance of Amy Paulin, who understands our community and represented Scarsdale in helping to defeat the Governor’s short- sighted housing proposal. I look forward to building housing in our community that enhances its qualities, not hurt it.”

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